By Phil Bildner, C. F. Payne (Illustrator)
Pub. Date: September 2008
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
Age Range: 4 to 8
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It’s Thanksgiving, and that means it’s time for…football! Ethan has waited his whole nine-year-old life to be old enough to play in the annual family Turkey Bowl football game. This is his year. He wakes up Thanksgiving Day, dresses in all of his football finest, and runs downstairs to greet the team — his whole family. But the kitchen isn’t full of aunts and cousins and uncles — a blizzard has snowed them out. And it looks like the Turkey Bowl just isn’t meant to be this year. After all, who could play football in a blizzard? Ethan, that’s who!
Thanksgiving and football go together like turkey and stuffing. For as long as Ethan can remember his whole family has assembled for the annual Turkey Bowl. The weather has never been too cold, too foggy, or too muddy for the aunts, uncles and cousins to join in the fun. This year, Ethan and his buddies are old enough to play in the game. On Thanksgiving morning, he bounds down the stairs in full football gear ready to move from the sidelines to the field. The kitchen is devoid of the usual Thanksgiving morning hubbub, and his mother explains that an early snowstorm may keep the family from making the game and dinner. A dejected Ethan heads out to gather his friends. While they are sitting dejectedly on the bleachers, he is struck by a brilliant idea. The game will go on—with Ethan and his friends. What a game it is! Ethan enjoys plowing through the snow, getting the first interception, diving for passes, and lunging for tackles. But the best part is scoring the game-winning touchdown, with the family arriving in time to see his stellar performance. Sport aficionado Bildner has created a likeable hero and put him in a story that is full of energy and excitement. The book has been carefully designed, with various colors and designs of the pages chosen to complement the action in the illustrations. Payne’s mixed media paintings have a photographic quality to them, and his faces reflect a wide range of emotions, from concern and resignation to determination and all-out euphoria. There is a nostalgic 1940’s look to the neighborhood and Ethan’s uniform but this in no way detracts from the universality of the story. The cover, with its textured football look, is a nice touch. This is apleasant diversion from typical Thanksgiving stories.
School Library Journal
The duo who created Shoeless Joe and Black Betsy (2002) and The Shot Heard ‘Round the World (S & S, 2005) offer another sports story. Every Thanksgiving, Ethan’s relatives arrive and, through mud, cold, or fog, they play a wild game of football. Ethan and the neighborhood kids watch the action and long for the day when they can join in. The year that they are finally old enough to play, nine-year-old Ethan leaps out of bed and into his uniform, only to discover that a blizzard has closed roads and the family won’t be coming. The disappointed boy gathers his friends and they trudge to the school football field, now covered in snow. In the “ah-ha” moment of the tale, they realize that they have enough kids to play themselves, and the wild and joyous snow-filled game that ensues carries on the tradition of the Turkey Bowl. As Ethan catches a final touchdown pass, he realizes that his relatives have indeed made the trip and are cheering him on from the sidelines. Payne’s muted, full-color illustrations capture the disappointment and joy the characters experience and feature plenty of gridiron action. Perfect for reading aloud at holiday time, this lively story will resonate year-round with sports fans.
Ethan and his friends have grown up watching Ethan’s family’s Turkey Bowl, just waiting till they’re old enough to join in. But snow is falling on Thanksgiving Day, and it looks like Ethan’s relatives won’t make it after all. But, “We can have our own Turkey Bowl,” declares Ethan, and the game begins. Payne clothes his lumpy-nosed children in antique football gear and high-tops, milking both past and present Bowls for all the slapstick available. The family’s devotion to football and to one another comes through loud and clear in this celebration of that other Thanksgiving tradition. (Picture book. 5-8)